Over the last 10 years, companies have had to make a lot of adjustments to stay afloat during the Great Recession. Some have had to let people go through layoffs and most have been at least on a hiring freeze. The economy is slowly improving but companies are hesitant to start hiring again. The workload continues to increase, which brings up the question everyone has been discussing in the past few years: "How can we do more with fewer employees?"
Each company and industry is under unique circumstances, but in our experience there are three surefire ways to decrease employee performance. They are:
- Lack of Communication
- Lack of Praise
- Lack of Resources and Infrastructure
The Power of Why
Communicating often and from the top-down with your employees is critical to keeping them engaged. Employees have witnessed the loss of their co-workers and they fear losing their own job. Those remaining have seen their work load double.
Leaders who focus on sharing the reason for a leaner business environment help employees see the light at the end of the tunnel. When people are left in the “dark”, they become frustrated because they don’t understand the full picture of what is going on or why. Once they can see the bigger picture that their leaders have painted, they will become more engaged. They have a clearer understanding of the future and where they fit into it.
In the absence of consistent and frequent communication from the leadership, the “company grapevine” takes over the communication, spreading rumors that can create a negative environment instead of a positive one that will promote employee engagement. As a leader, you want to maintain control of the information flowing through your organization to minimize lost productivity and additional stress to employees.
“Good job!” and “Thank you!”
These are two simple phrases that can go a long way in improving your employees’ morale, which has a definite impact on your bottom line. From my experience, I have seen that it is critical for leaders to actively and sincerely praise employees. Recognizing the efforts they are putting forward is a simple gesture that goes a long way.
“If you're sincere, praise is effective. If you're insincere, it's manipulative. ”
Even in a lean business environment, leadership still expects deliverables to be at the same quality levels they were before the cutbacks, but often the output suffers because employees have too much on their plates. Leaders need to become better coaches and mentors to their employees, set clear expectations and provide constructive feedback instead of criticism.
Create a positive culture through consistent praise and thoughtful constructive criticism. Do not make praise a rare event.
Over the last 10 years, employees have been doing more with less. If adding additional personnel is not an option, consider adding resources to encourage your employees to perform at their highest level. Ask your employees how the company can simplify their workday or what their ideas are on how everyone can be more efficient. People do not like having to do repetitive tasks when they know it can be done more efficiently with additional resources.
Empower your employees to be collaborative and offer solutions. The company might be able to purchase software, equipment or even offer training to help their employees grow professionally. Create a positive work environment through employee driven initiatives. Leadership will be rewarded through increased morale, more efficient systems, increased employee productivity and happier customers. Avoid the double “whammy” of a crumbling infrastructure and unengaged employees, the result can be fatal.
As a leader you have the opportunity to increase employee performance and improve your bottom line. It sounds simple, but it is by simplifying that you gain results:
- Communicate well and often - don’t make assumptions that people know what they are expected to do. Be CLEAR!
- SINCERELY praise people - pay attention to your people and their efforts
- Provide a solid infrastructure with the right resources so people can perform well.
“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
Keep up the good work! Until next time …